Often, patients visit Gladwell Orthodontics and are surprised to learn they need orthodontic treatment because their teeth appear straight. Many of these patients have bite issues that are invisible to the naked eye but need to be resolved. Let’s take a closer look at whether top and bottom teeth are supposed to line up and what the ideal bite looks like.
In the ideal bite, the edges of the upper front teeth parallel the top of the lower lip. You’ll show too much gum tissue when you smile if your upper teeth are too long and won’t show enough enamel if they are too short. When you close your mouth, approximately one half to two thirds of the bottom teeth should be seen.
If the upper teeth cover too much of the lower teeth, you likely have a deep bite. In the event your upper teeth do not overlap with the lower ones as much as they should, you may have an open bite. A crossbite is when the upper arch is too narrow or too bite and the upper teeth cross over the lower one in any direction.
Malocclusion: The Technical Name for Bite Issues
If you have a bite issue, you have what’s known as a malocclusion. Malocclusion is a fancy way of saying that teeth are improperly aligned. In most cases, malocclusion is hereditary. If your mom or grandma had bite issues, chances are you will too.
Another common cause of malocclusion include childhood habits like tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, prolonged bottle use, and pacifier use beyond age 3. Lost teeth, abnormally shaped teeth, and impacted teeth, crowns, jaw fractures after a serious injury, and tumors of the mouth and jaw can also play a vital role in a malocclusion.
There are three different classes of malocclusions. Class 1 is the most common and occurs when the bite is normal but there is a slight overlap between the upper teeth and lower teeth. Also known as an overbite, class 2 malocclusion is when the upper jaw and teeth overlap the bottom jaw and teeth severely. An underbite or class 3 malocclusion arises when the lower jaw protrudes forward and causes the lower jaw and teeth to overlap the upper jaw and teeth.
Symptoms of a Malocclusion
There are a number of symptoms that may indicate you have a malocclusion. Of course, the most obvious one is the improper alignment of teeth. If you experience any discomfort when you chew or bite, have speech problems such as a lisp, breath through your mouth rather than your nose, and/or frequently bite your tongue or inner cheeks, you may want to get checked out for bite problems.
How Can Bite Issues Be Resolved
Fortunately, bite issues can be easily resolved with braces. In addition to braces, Dr. Gladwell may recommend rubber bands. Rubber bands work to align your bite and improve the way your upper and lower teeth fit together. Although this is typically the longest part of an orthodontic treatment, it is also the most important.
Other less common yet effective treatments for bite issues include the reshaping, bonding, or capping of the teeth and wires or plates to stabilize the jaw bone. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to shorten or reshape the jaw.
Our Garner, NC dental friends at Moore Family Dentistry often refer teenagers to us because they are concerned about their bite and would like treatment to start as soon as possible. Allowing this issue to continue could cause oral health issues.
Types of Malocclusions
While there are many types of malocclusions, here’s a brief overview of some of the most common ones.
Overcrowding is widely seen in adults who seek orthodontic treatment. It’s often the result of a lack of space and can lead to crooked teeth that overlap. Believe it or not, overcrowded teeth can lead to stress headaches, neck and jaw pain, and increased clenching.
In an open bite, the front teeth do not overlap the lower teeth. This can lead to an opening that makes its way directly into the mouth. An open bite that impacts the front teeth is known as an anterior open bite. With an open bite, you may have trouble biting and chewing your food.
It’s normal for some of your lower front teeth to overlap. An excessive overbite, however, can cause your front teeth to bite down to your gums. It may also lead your lower front teeth to bite into the roof of your mouth. Some of the most common overbite complications include TMJ disorders, tooth decay, and gum disease.
Also known as an anterior crossbite, an underbite arises when the lower front teeth extend outward past the upper front teeth. An underbite can make it a challenge for you to chew and speak properly. An underbite can lead to issues with chewing as well as headaches, tooth decay, speech issues, and even sleep apnea. Our friend and Harrisburg emergency dentist, Dr. Brian McNeely has noticed more and more patients asking about sleep apnea in the last several years.
If you close your mouth and notice some of your upper teeth sit inside your lower teeth, instead of the outside like they’re supposed to, you may have a crossbite. A crossbite often makes its debut in childhood and will not correct itself as a patient gets older. Left untreated, a crossbite can cause a variety of health problems such as teeth grinding, wear and tear to the enamel, and muscle tension.
Schedule a Consultation at Gladwell Orthodontics
If you believe you may have bite issues, don’t hesitate to call our office at 919-453-6325 to schedule a complimentary consultation and learn about a viable treatment plan from Dr. Gladwell.